The Journal Gazette
 
 
Monday, December 06, 2021 1:00 am

Boilers set to face Volunteers

Likely be without Bell, Karlaftis as they eye NFL draft

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The last time Purdue played in a bowl game, the Boilermakers endured a humbling blowout at the hands of Auburn, a 63-14 defeat in the 2018 Music City Bowl.

After missing out on postseason play the last two years, the Boilermakers (8-4) will face Tennessee (7-5) in this season's Music City Bowl at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee on Dec. 30.

“It was a long day for us, (Auburn) took it to us, and it did sting,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said of the 2018 defeat. “(The players) understand that we really need to prepare for this bowl, prepare for this opponent – you want to finish the season with a win.”

Purdue is looking for the second bowl win of Brohm's tenure, which would join a 2017 triumph over Arizona in the Foster Farms Bowl. A victory would give the Boilermakers their first nine-win season since 2003.

When the Boilermakers played in Nashville in 2018, close to 20,000 Purdue fans bought tickets, according to athletic director Mike Bobinski. The sizable turnout was a factor in the Music City Bowl targeting Purdue a second time in four seasons.

“After the outstanding season our football program has had, we are extremely proud of and excited for Coach Brohm and the Boilermakers to be representing Purdue University in the ... Music City Bowl,” Bobinski said in a statement. “Our fans certainly know what a special and unique place Nashville is and I'm certain we will have a sea of Old Gold and Black throughout the city and inside Nissan Stadium.”

The Boilers might have to face the Volunteers without two of their best players. Wide receiver David Bell, the Big Ten Receiver of the Year, and defensive end George Karlaftis, a first team All-Big Ten honoree, will depart for the NFL after this season, Brohm announced Sunday. The coach said both are undecided about playing in the bowl game.

Bell, a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award as the best receiver in college football, is 22 yards shy of setting a single-season Purdue record. Karlaftis has 10 tackles for loss, 41/2 sacks, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and fumble return for touchdown this season.

The Volunteers (7-5) boast the No. 9 scoring offense in the country at 38.8 points per game and four of their five losses came against teams in the top 13 of the final College Football Playoff rankings. They are in their first season under coach Josh Heupel.

“We watch football too and there's a lot of good football being played (in the SEC),” Brohm said. “Tennessee had a really good year. ... This will be a tough challenge for us. It's going to be a different style that we haven't faced this year, so we're going to have to be prepared on defense to slow down the tempo, eliminate the big plays and not allow perimeter throws to gain a lot of yards and also stop the run.”

Purdue and Tennessee have met once before, in the 1979 Bluebonnet Bowl. The Boilermakers defeated the 12th-ranked Volunteers to reach 10 wins for what remains the only time in program history.

Note: Purdue backup quarterback Jack Plummer, who is in the transfer portal, will remain with the Boilermakers through bowl prep and will be available in the game, Brohm said.

dsinn@jg.net

Music City Bowl

Purdue vs. Tennessee

When: 3 p.m. on Dec. 30

Where: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.

Records: Purdue (8-4), Tennessee (7-5)

TV: ESPN

Statistical leaders
Passing Purdue: Aidan O'Connell - 3,178 yards, 74% completion, 19 TD, 8 INT Tennessee: Hendon Hooker - 2,567 yards, 69% completion, 26 TD, 3 INT Rushing Purdue: King Doerue - 488 yards, 3.9 per carry, 2 TD Tennessee: Jabari Small - 611 yards, 5.4 per carry, 8 TD Receiving Purdue: David Bell - 93 receptions, 1,286 yards, 6 TD Tennessee: Cedric Tillman - 57 receptions, 931 yards, 9 TD

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